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3 Steps for Combining Your Finances After Saying “I Do”

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You share a closet, a last name, and the responsibility of walking your dog. But despite becoming Mr. and Mrs. a couple of months ago, your financial accounts are still separate.

But this isn’t some veiled move to remain financially independent despite being married. You want to combine your finances but just don’t know where to start. Here, an easy step-by-step guide.

STEP ONE

First off, it should be stated that financial experts are in agreement that couples need to be 100 percent honest with each other about their finances. That includes disclosing information about your income and how much money you have, plus coming clean about any debt you’ve accumulated (whether it be student, credit-card, or a car loan). In a perfect world, you would’ve already shared these details before you said, “I do,” but if you didn’t, do so now. (Keeping financial secrets or lying about anything money-related means that you’re committing financial infidelity—a behavior that almost a third of people admit to doing, according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education.)

STEP TWO

Now that you both have a full understanding of your assets and your debt, it’s time to figure out what types of accounts you’re going to have—joint everything or some joint, some individual. There’s no right or wrong answer to this situation, so discuss it with your partner and figure out what works best for the two of you.

STEP THREE

If you want to have only joint accounts—checking, savings, investments, credit cards—everything is pretty easy. You can choose to open new accounts and list both parties as co-owners or you can stick with your existing accounts and add the other person to them.

Either way, it’s important to understand that when you’re the owner of an account, you’re responsible for any activity on it. Say, you have several joint credit cards and your spouse maxes out each one of them. Not only are you on the hook for paying off the debt, but your credit score will be negatively affected, too. (Credit bureaus do not like it when consumers use all of their available credit.)

On the other hand, if you and your loved one decide to have a mix of both joint and individual accounts, you first need to talk through how many accounts you’re going to have. (Are you going to have joint checking accounts and individual savings accounts? Joint and individual checking and savings? Joint checking but individual credit cards?) Once you’ve figured that out, you need to also determine how you’re going to pay for household expenses such as rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, and transportation. Is one of you going to make the house payment, for example, and the other person will cover all the other bills? Or are you going to pay your household bills out of the “ours” account and then pay for any splurges out of your own savings account?

Once you make these money decisions together, you and your spouse should be on the road toward achieving both wedded—and financial—bliss.

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